Violette spotted him the moment he entered the tavern. Even amongst the perfumed dandies and primped merchants, he stood out with his scarlet plumed hat. He was not unhandsome, and for a moment, Violette regretted that he had to die.

Corlwyn took a table by the stairs. Scanning the room for a pretty face, he passed over Violette without pause as she flirted distractedly with a dour apothecary. 

Corlwyn was on his second cup of wine before she made her move. Violette had chosen the poison concealed in her ring specifically for this occasion. It would mimic the effects of sudden intoxication, causing Corlwyn to leave early, puzzled by his sudden intolerance. 

Stirred by the action of walking, the poison would imitate the fog of drunkenness. A moment later, darkness, his heart stopping before he dropped.

Violette approached his table and he sighed. She was not his type, but in such a place, he must be polite.

“I’m sorry,” he said without looking. “I’m waiting for someone.” Violette pursed her lips, perturbed at being slighted.

“I’d say she’s not coming,” she insisted. “You’re on your second.”

“Lass, I’m just getting started,” he laughed. Violette snatched his cup and drained it in a single pull. 

“Then order us another.” She slapped the cup on the table. 

“I’m not looking,” Corlwyn said, annoyed. 

Their eyes met and he missed a breath. In the colored light of the diamond-paned window, her eyes sparkled like pale amethysts. He had been told he would meet a lady with such eyes on his way to meet Ulrik. The guild master assured him that she was sent by Demien the master of the rival thieves’ guild. She would approach as a beggar in the alley between Queen’s Street and Butcher’s Way and he would dispose of her there. 

Violette turned and walked back to the bar. Corlwyn shook the moment from his mind and called the serving girl back. She refilled his wine, but Violette had already emptied her ring into his cup after she had drained it. Corlwyn’s fate was sealed.

Before he could raise his cup, two men walked into the tavern, conspicuous in their dark leather jerkins. They sat by the stage and nodded at Corlwyn. He returned the gesture. 

Suddenly, one of the men rose and left the tavern, but just before the door swung closed, Violette watched a familiar figure approach and speak to the man. It was Ot, Ulrik’s most trusted henchmen. How could the dandy be connected to the guild master? It made no sense. Unless.

Violette walked over to Corlwyn and placed her hand on his cup.

“Perhaps you didn’t hear me—” he began.

“You work for Ulrik,” she said. Corlwyn stared at her.

“You’re Demien’s,” he whispered.

You are!”

“I’m Ulrik’s.”

“So am I!” 

They paused, each pondering this strange turn of events.

“It seems we are betrayed,” Corlwyn said.

“It seems,” Violette said. 

“Let’s go,” Corlwyn said. He pulled the cup back and brought it to his lips.

“No!” she shouted, striking it to the floor with the swiftness of an adder. The man by the stage rose and rushed out the door. An instant later, it flung open again and the two rushed inside with Ot.

Corlwyn lept to his feet and kicked over the table. The first man was upon him, but with one swift move, he drew his rapier and ran him through. As he turned, Violette cut down the other in a dazzling dance of steel, a short curved blade in each hand. Ot sized them up for a moment then fled.

“This way!” Corlwyn shouted. He vaulted over the bar and burst into the kitchen. He rushed to a smaller door and jerked it open. It was a small storeroom, dark and windowless.

“There’s a hidden door on the other side,” he said. 

Violette slid past him. She ran her hands across the wall, brought them together, and pushed. A small panel swung out and they clambered through.

They ran through the alleys until the sounds of Ot’s men grew faint in the distance. Stopping, they settled into the shadows of an abandoned building. 

“How did you know about the storeroom door?” Violette asked.

“I’ve been… borrowing some wine.” She smiled.

“I have a place we can hide,” she said. “Then we deal with Ot.”

Corlwyn shook his head. “He’s not the problem.”

“Ulrik?” He nodded.

“I’m glad I didn’t kill you.”

“Me too.” 

“Violette,” she said.

“Corlwyn. A pleasure.”

They laughed.